Camberwell doesn't get too many new restaurant openings and when they do they are invariably fast food or curry based. When the Church Street hotel opened over two years ago, we were told that a local tapas restaurant was soon to follow. The newly opened boutique hotel needed to raise sufficient investment before the restaurant based on their ground floor was to be opened.
So the good citizens of Camberwell waited, and we waited, and waited. Finally, after over 30 months of waiting, Angels and Gypsies was finally open to the public. This may not seem like a big event, but in these parts, its akin to Heston opening up a Fat Duck bistro on the site of the Camberwell McDonalds.
So after such a long wait, was this place going to be any good? Suffice to say, it certainly looks the part. A beautiful faux stain glass window featuring the eponymous Angels and Gypsies tower over the spacious and bright dining room. Coming in from the cold and rain, we were greeted by a delightful waitress who was as bright and cheery as the room itself.
We were brought a little "amuse" of griddled cauliflower which was almost raw but perfectly adequate to nibble on as we perused the menu. With about 30 dishes on the menu and every one of them sounding appealing, we struggled to choose what we wanted to eat, and in the end, we kind of went a little crazy and ordered almost everything.
So instead of boring you with the finer details of every course, let me summarise by saying that everything we ate was pretty decent. A few things were quite average (such as the empanadas and the slightly burnt mushrooms) but stand out dishes for me were:
Roast pork belly with rum plum jam and Cox apple salad: My favourite dish was the pork, natch. The slow cooked belly was tender and had a fantastic crackling. Slightly on the flabby side, this didn't put me off from wolfing it down (as if fat ever put me off!). The rum plum jam was the perfect accompaniment, although the serving was on the slightly parsimonious side, with a light and interesting apple salad to finish the dish off. For just over a fiver, it was a real winner.
Jamon Croquetas - A staple of any good tapas bar, these had a wonderfully light and crisp outer crumb whilst the inside had an almost liquid consistency, studded with morsels of jamon. An exceptionally good example.
Mejiones Escabeche - Not everyone's kettle of fish, but I found the combinations of sweet and sour flavours really interesting. Even more so, I have never seen this made with mussels and I thought they lent themself quite well to this way of cooking.
How we found space for desserts after our binge, I am not quite sure, but we ordered them anyway. There were only two on the menu and they were both average, a mere distraction from the multitude of dishes we had just consumed. Angels and Gypsies certainly hadn't let me down. It may have been 3 years in the pipeline, but the end product is a polished, local neighbourhood restaurant. The food is of a good quality and considering it had only been open a week, it has started to attract the locals in already. A welcome addition to Camberwell's burgeoning dining scene and I for one am glad that is a mere stones throw from my front door.
Angels and Gypsies (website) - 29-33 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR (ring the hotel to book a table)